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IRS misdeeds undercut trust in government

The age-old tension between liberty and security has never loomed larger for the American people - and that tension is being felt on a number of fronts.

The advent of computers has given companies and government the ability to collect massive amounts of data on individuals. That raises the threat to liberty exponentially.

In the wake of a deranged man's murder of 20 first-graders and six teachers at Sandy Hook Elementary School, some thought the response - at minimum - should be background checks on all gun purchasers.

Although proponents of the measure specifically denied that it would lead to a national registry of firearms owners, some defenders of the 2nd Amendment right to bear arms were not mollified.

They pointed out that all the elements necessary for creation of a registry would be in place.

Then came the news that the Internal Revenue Service had targeted conservative groups prior to the 2010 presidential election.

The IRS said rogue employees in the Cincinnati office were responsible for selecting groups that had "tea party" or "patriot" in their names for special

attention. Few believed that - and a couple of IRS agents in Cincinnati have since disputed it.

The thought that the IRS has been used to discourage political speech has all Americans listening for the outcome of congressional investigations.

 Then came the U.S. Supreme Court's decision that law enforcement officials have the right to take DNA samples when they arrest people. The majority viewed DNA as simply a new form of identification, much like fingerprints.

The minority viewed it as an intrusion impermissible under the 4th Amendment.

Now we learn that in the name of national security, the National Security Agency has been sweeping up the phone records not just of suspected terrorists, but of all Americans - the better to see who is calling whom.

Whatever happened to the need for a showing of probable cause?

A bipartisan group of political officials defended the secret NSA program as valuable to preserving national security, and as a minimal threat to liberty.

Before the IRS, the American people might have given the government the benefit of the doubt. After learning how the IRS used its vast powers, persuading the public that the NSA can be trusted with everybody's phone records will be a tall order.


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